I recently walked into a local grocery store where an anti-bullying petition or public campaign for awareness was circulating out front as you walked in. I thought nothing of it really, remembering as a Sonoma youth some 35-years or so ago how acts, now given fancy nomenclature like “bullying, were dealt with back then. Dealing with it meant a big crowd would gather at the “dyke” near Altimira or one of the back fields at any of the other local schools and the two combatants would duke it out for final resolution and what-ever outcome the issue was usually settled. It appears times have changed since the good old days of the original conflict resolution.
No more than a few days after flippantly walking past this bullying petition I unfortunately now have an experience of someone subject of such abuse, and yes right here in Sonoma at what was in my day of local schooling the prestigious Prestwood Elementary School. I write to the Sonoma Valley Sun not because of an incident that occurred between a few boys ganging up to bully one, although that is what is most important to me, but as a community member sharing school administrators eagerness (read sarcasm into this use of “eagerness”) to address such an issue. Now picture an 8-year old who one day earlier had just celebrated his birthday trying to protect themselves from rock-throwing agitators while crouched beneath a picnic table, I am told not the first time these kids have done this but an escalation to this point; this would be a disturbing scene even if one was not directly connected to the victim. There was a parent witness that stepped in to stop the one way altercation; both mother and victim were in tears for hours afterward.
It is my understanding that this happened mid-day and that the mother of the victim was told that the Principal, Jason Sutter, would not have any time to speak regarding the issue until “sometime” the next day because of a meeting with a teacher or something of that nature. So, to my point, is school bullying just a media hot-topic or should this administrator have made it a priority to listen to what might have occurred during his watch as leader of Prestwood School? Maybe he could have offered the services of his vice principal to gather some preliminary information or to assist with determining the extent of the issue? Would he have felt differently if this had happened to one of his four school aged children, would it have been important then?
I am not one in support of constrictive or excessive laws or regulations but there are no fewer than 10 California state laws that cover bullying and that according to a government web-site “Schools that receive federal funding are required by federal law to address discrimination on a number of different personal characteristics.”; I assume bullying fits within that statement. Would Jason Sutter prefer to investigate and get to the bottom of this incident internally, or by his action does he feel a law enforcement investigation to determine the severity of this issue and possibly jeopardize his school’s funding is a better course of action? Maybe this is where our Sonoma Valley Unified School District Superintendent, Louann Carlomagno, might want to look into creating a bullying policy for our local schools or review the current policy to see if it has been followed appropriately in this case. Prestwood School as well as the SVUSD’s actions will tell whether or not bullying is a media buzzword or something more important. Swift and severe justice should be handed down to discourage future occurrences or even worse escalations of aggressiveness.
Prior to writing this letter to the Sonoma Valley Sun, a call was made to Jason Sutter, who didn’t have the time to talk and a voice message was left at the office of Superintendent Carlomagno to discuss the matter and I am eagerly awaiting a reply.